First-place Falcons to keep grinding away

Washington Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) runs for a touchdown as Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan pursues during the first half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Washington Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) runs for a touchdown as Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan pursues during the first half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Most football fans have seen the NFL Films footage of Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh asking his team the eternal question, “Who’s got it better than us?”

The players chime in with a hearty, “Nobody!”

At 5-0, the Falcons have it better than anybody in the NFC.

The Falcons are ensconced in first place in the NFC South with a 3 1/2-game lead on Tampa Bay (1-3) and a 4-game lead over New Orleans (1-4) and Carolina (1-4).

Off to the best start in franchise history, Falcons coach Mike Smith plans to enjoy the fast takeoff while working out the kinks for a team that admittedly at times hasn’t played its best football.

“It’s all about your focus,” Smith said. “You’ve got to focus on the task at hand. This is a group of guys that knows how to have fun, but they also know how to snap in and go to work when it’s time to go to work. That’s the important thing.

“There has got to be levity in everything that you do, in your personal life, in you work life. But there are also things that you have to get accomplished and things that you have to do. Everyone understands what our jobs are in this building.”

Smith doesn’t plan any change the team’s approach due to the standings.

“During the week we try to be even-keeled,” Smith said. “You’ve got to go through your preparation as a coaching staff and as a team. Then you have to go play with emotion on game day. I think our guys do a really good job of that.”

Since the 2008 season, the Falcons are tied with Baltimore for the second-best record in the league at 48-21. Only New England (51-18) has been better.

Smith’s career winning percentage through 69 games (.696) is tied for 10th all-time with Harbaugh and Joe Gibbs, according to STATS Inc.

The nine coaches ahead of Smith are George Halas, Paul Brown, George Seifert, Chuck Knox, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, George Allen, John Madden, Blanton Collier and Potsy Clark.

Some of the players sounded giddy about their start.

“I think we’re doing a heck of a job of just going out there and competing and just expecting to win,” wide receiver Roddy White said. “This team has got a whole different attitude about going out there and expecting to win. Each week into each week, we seem to get better.”’

Smith said he isn’t worried about his team reading their press clippings. He contends that his defenders already know they must defend the run better after giving up 115 yards to Washington rookie running back Alfred Morris last Sunday.

“I’d rather learn lessons while I’m winning than learn lessons while I’m losing, so you’ve got to take that from it,” linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said.

The run defense will receive plenty of scrutiny.

“We are going to look at everything in terms of scheme and in terms of players, who’s playing and who’s not playing, because it’s something that we definitely have to fix,” Smith said

The Falcons also have to become more consistent on special teams.

“We’ll have two nice coverages and then have them pop one [kickoff return] out to the 35-yard line,” Smith said. “Those things will come back to haunt you.”

Even quarterback Matt Ryan will be asked to step up his game.

“Offensively, we haven’t turned the ball over [a lot], but when we have, it’s been catastrophic basically,” Smith said. “Two of them in the red zone, one returned for a touchdown and the other … was in field goal range.”

With a win Sunday against Oakland, Smith can tie Dan Reeves (49-59-1) for the most coaching wins in club history.

Don’t expect a wild celebration from the coach.

“It’s just a start,” Smith said. “That’s all it is.”

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40 comments Add your comment

DR. FALCON

October 8th, 2012
11:47 pm

IT’S NOT ALWAYS GOING TO BE PRETTY! NOT EVEN MY CHILDHOOD IDOL, STEVE BARTKOWSKI, WENT 5-0! KUDOS TO MATT RYAN, AND HIS 18TH, 4TH QTR. COMEBACK! LIKE I SAID DURING RAINING CAMP, ON SIRIUS NFL RADIO! MVP!

ToccoaBird

October 8th, 2012
11:52 pm

Nice start to a long season.

Falcons in 2012

October 9th, 2012
12:30 am

Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I think it is his brother, the 49ers coach, who uses that phrase with his team.

Samuel

October 9th, 2012
7:13 am

Your’e dead on Falcons in 2012, Is it Corey Peters we miss helping stop the run? Or that our outside linebackers end up with more tackles than the middle linebacker Akeem Dent. Why did they bring Edwards in this guy’s an underachiever he can’t rush the passer and apparently he can’t stop the run either. I think before all said and done this Edwards dude was a mistake.

Getaway

October 9th, 2012
7:26 am

Yep, great start, got to keep playing hard. The only thing that matters is the next play. They’re saying the right things.

I do think, though that the Falcons are starting to slip back under the radar, as much as an undefeated team can. They haven’t produced those blowout wins, the windbags have been expecting.

BOLD PREDICTION: The Falcons have been 2nd in most Power Polls the past few weeks. I predict that they will drop to at least 3rd in a few of them and as far as 5th in at least one. The reasoning will be something squishy like they don’t pass the sniff test or they let teams hang around, or they can’t stop the run.

There may be some truth to the last one. But they’ve faced 2 of the 4 best running backs in the league, both times their teams had to abandon the run. Maybe that’s the secret to improving the run defense, Smitty! Pour on the scoring!

Mike is Back

October 9th, 2012
7:58 am

Dled, Good stuff, can you believe no comment.lol

RISE UP BIRDS…STAY ON THA GRIND…LET’S GO…LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paddy

October 9th, 2012
7:59 am

Samuel……You are corret. Peters will make a difference in that D-Line rotation. Our middle lb makes fewer tackles than the other lb’s is because he plays about 2/3 less snaps. The middle lb is fast going the way of the fb,& the 2 back set modern football

I usually just read but...

October 9th, 2012
8:27 am

It’s a long season. That we’re not playing at our best yet, leaves the door open for the team to peak at just the right time. I would rather see a slow start as long as they keep winning. I wonder if they are pacing theirselves for a big finish, have something extra in the tank when they reach the playoffs. That’s how I’m gonna look at it.

EB

October 9th, 2012
8:44 am

DOL: What’s up with Corey Peters…he’s good against the run….is he coming back this year?

dean

October 9th, 2012
9:32 am

How did Bartkowski go 5-0 if the team had never been 5-0? I must have missed something.

*Frederick(Bailey)Douglass*

October 9th, 2012
9:41 am

Good question about EB about Cory Peters. We need his size against the run.

DOL, I was in the house in Landover, MD at Redskins Stadium. A few quuick observations team:

1) Sam Baker is playing MUCH better. His guts test is coming a few weeks in Philly, but I can tell that his attitude and will to block has changed.

2) Julio Jones is a very gifted second year player. All the upside in the world…but for now a second year player. Very inconsistent.

3) #23 is playing the best ball he has ever played as a Falcon. Tough against the run…staying alert in coverage. He had a lapse last week…but all in all, he is off to a great start.

4) As usual, Jason Snelling should be a candidate for Falcons MVP. His involvement as FB, WR, TE allows the offense to scheme. Look for him to start catching balls from his various alignments real soon.

5) Ryan didnt have his best game (please Lord don’t start with the fumbling from center again)…but he made the plays when needed and read the coverages correctly It was #88s game to have, given the redskin’s scheme, and they both (#2 and #88) delivered.

Oakland will be a trap game. Keep Turner on the straight and narrow this week…and run him hard on Sunday. Try and stay healthy. We should be 6-0 going into the break.

FBD
What if we had #20 Grimes at our disposal? smh

falCANS

October 9th, 2012
9:47 am

Akeem Dent has less tackles because he is horrible. Period…..he isnt a natural MLB. Love my Bulldawg alumns but time to start Peterson or @ least rotate between the 2

falCANS

October 9th, 2012
9:48 am

Oh yea Curtis Lofton ballin his traitor a$$ off

D man

October 9th, 2012
9:52 am

The Falcons are in the drivers seat for the playoffs.

With 11 games to go we have 5 division games and we only have 3 games against teams with winning records. If we beat Oakland and then play 500 ball the rest of the way, we would finish with a 11 & 7 record. I believe we will finish with at least 13 wins and get a bye in the first round. We should beat Tampa twice, Carolina again and New Orleans at least once. We should also beat the Raiders, Cowboys, And Lions. We will have tough games against the Giants at home, Cardnals at home, and The Eagles on the road. I predicted 12 wins at the beginning of the season, but we could pull out 14… What a dream season we are living…

Getaway

October 9th, 2012
10:31 am

Lofton is leading the league in tackles. But how hard is that when your team can’t get the opposing offense off the field?

Michael M.

October 9th, 2012
10:48 am

Falcons – 49 Raiders – 3

this time next week …………

NFC SOUTH STANDINGS

Falcons 6 – 0
Mucs 1 – 4
Pansies 1 – 5
Caints 1- 5

Paddy

October 9th, 2012
10:50 am

Getaway….you make a good point. You can’t have a high number of tackles (Dent) if you are only on the field 1/3 of the time. And if the oposition decides to throw on first down and it is incomplete or for a small gain, Dent goes to the sideline.

Joe

October 9th, 2012
10:55 am

One thing we have to consider, when we play other teams the will bring their A game because we have no losses. None are going to be easy, question is can we continue to win, even if it is ulgy against a really good team. I guess more to follow. Go Birds

Post-It

October 9th, 2012
11:06 am

Lofton is leading the league in tackles 8 yards past the line of scrimmage. That Saints defense is horrible.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 9th, 2012
11:09 am

*Frederick(Bailey)Douglass* — Thanks for sharing. Sam is playing much better, but I want to see it over the long haul. Dunta is doing his thing out there. Good points as always.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 9th, 2012
11:10 am

dean — It’s 5-0 to open the season. The team has never “opened the season” 5-0.

StuDawg

October 9th, 2012
11:13 am

D man, I think you meant 11 and 5. Right now, I just cant see us losing 5 games considering our schedule. I see 3 tops. Go Falcons!

Brian Hunt

October 9th, 2012
11:54 am

Corey Peters is definitely missed by the defense. Dent has enough talent, but he seems to be struggling with recognizing where the runner is going and he ends up out of place, sometimes overrunning his gap. It’s gap responsibility that’s killing them, and Dent isn’t the only issue.

Michael M.

October 9th, 2012
11:55 am

It is hard to lose when you have the ” Can’t lose mentality “………………….oh, I keep forgetting…………we have not played anybody yet, last time I checked……………….every game, we have faced a Team that some thought were going to beat our asxx…………………………its one game at a time, onwards and upwards !
Falcons still holding that number 2 spot on the weekly power polls too, one of two undefeated teams in the NFL and number one in the NFC South !

Hot Falcon Girl

October 9th, 2012
12:08 pm

Hey I’m new to this blog but loving my Falcons. Do anyone know why we shouldn’t beat the Eagles. I keep hearing people say “we will have our hands full when we play the Eagles”. WHY?

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Getaway

October 9th, 2012
1:00 pm

Well, I was wrong about the Power Polls, Falcons stayed in 2nd on most all of them. But I haven’t seen the NFL.com poll. Yahoo Sports had them at #1. Hmmm…
Does it accurately depict what the media think or does it mean they’re playing it safe and not downgrading them until they lose?

Adogg36

October 9th, 2012
1:48 pm

Enter yo comments here yall know jamie dukes from nfl network say our first lost is coming when we play philly.He”s always hating on us. Just like at the begining of da season he sayed our defense still aint rite. Rise up!!!!!!! Hater

dean

October 9th, 2012
3:56 pm

Thanks DLed. I understand that. Therefore, Steve Bartkowski never opened a season 5-0. :)

Getaway

October 9th, 2012
5:18 pm

Adogg36 – Dukes better watch it, he hasn’t made it into the Ring of Honor, yet.

TONYT203

October 9th, 2012
5:34 pm

Lofton is leading the league in tackles because no one else on that defense can tackle. He has to make all of them. I’ve watched NO games. He still can’t cover anybody. And his tackles are all downfield. Sound familiar? Can you say Keith Brookings? And as far as the Texan are concerned. 5-0. Miami, Jacksonville, Denver, Tennessee & the Jets. Wake me when they play a team with a decent won/loss record. Or when the play a team with a decent offense and defense. One of the easiest schedules in the NFL. Not impressed. We see how good they are when they play the Ravens.

vanomania

October 9th, 2012
6:03 pm

I think you mean Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers

run the damn ball

October 9th, 2012
7:05 pm

We must be able to consistantly stop the run if we are to be legit Super Bowl contenders. I’m very proud of our CMS. He’s the man!!

Falcon James

October 9th, 2012
9:57 pm

Its a plus for the Saint that we trained Lofton so well or they might be winless still. The Falcon have a few kinks, but are working them out. The run D will improve. Dunta, who I thought was just drawing a paycheck they past few seasons is back to the Pro-Bowl for we paid for. Sam Baker, who we were ready to run out of town, is doing a great job that we expected the year he was drafted. Bryant is awesome. I would like to Quizz pick it up some on the kick off returns. I give Juilio a pass because of the injury to his, but he needs to start catching the balls. Teams will go back to single converage on him and he will get more opportunities. All in all, nobody was expecting this from the Falcon. We are getting better each week. We have played some dangerous teams and the Falcon have a swag about them.

By the way, who else cracked up seeing Breezie on his tippie toes trying to find an open reciever. I had never noticed that he and Quizz are about the same height.

Mikey

October 9th, 2012
10:45 pm

This team is still gelling. There are so many positives that it is just FUN to be a fan. There were quite a few mistakes in this game. That happens sometimes. As long as the Falcons don’t get a big head over the amazing success, they will continue to improve and they will become a dominating team. It ’s nice to see that they just don’t give up in the face of adversity. They keep going and when they do things right, they are explosive. How nice is it to have Gonzo on our team? Wow! GO FALCONS!

Lesa

October 10th, 2012
12:18 am

Where is that ole sad sack “Stendek”? And that loser who calls himself “Matt ‘Choke’ Ryan”? And all those Aints fans who usually comment on any and every Falcons blog? Guess they got nothing to say now. So glad the Falcons are shutting up the haters and whiners this season. I’ve been a faithful fan since 1978 and have never seen a Falcons team as good as this year’s version. They are a joy to watch. GO FALCONS!!!!!!

[...] First-place Falcons to keep grinding away [...]

Th

October 10th, 2012
6:41 pm

If Dent doesn’t start reading plays better, Biermann may have to play middle LB on run downs. And I second the shout-out for Snelling. He has made some tough yards after catching dump passes to keep drives alive.

TalkReal

October 10th, 2012
7:36 pm

I like what spoon said. I respect that and it’s good to hear that he’s still trying to improve his game, especiall since it’s common for young players to buy into the hype and fade afterwards. Aaron Curry,steve slaton,jamarcus russel,titus young,derek anderson etc..

lowdownjj

October 11th, 2012
9:13 am

Yup. Its Jim and the 49ers that coined that phrase. I really hope Smitty and Nolan don’t change the scheme dramatically because the pass D might suffer if we abandon the nickle we play predominately to better defend the run. Remember the last few years when we were top 5 in run D but consistantly got scorched with the pass? Of course I would rather be tops in both but if I HAD to pick m poison…